iPad mini For Dummies (2013)
Part VI. The Part of Tens
Chapter 19. Ten Apps Worth Paying For
If you read Chapter 18, you know that lots of great free apps are available for your iPad. But as the old cliché goes, some things are worth paying for. Still, none of the ten for-pay apps we’ve chosen as some of our favorites are likely to break the bank. As you’re about to discover, some apps in this list are practical, and some are downright silly. The common theme? We think you’ll like carrying these apps around on your iPad.
Bill Atkinson PhotoCard
Who is Bill Atkinson? He had a hand (or both hands) in the first Macintosh computer as well as the MacPaint and HyperCard Mac applications. Today he’s a world-renowned nature photographer, which brings us to his app. Bill Atkinson PhotoCard is a free app that lets you create gorgeous high-resolution postcards and send them via either e-mail or the U.S. Postal Service. Sending postcards by e-mail is free, and so is the app.
But the reason we love it is that you can have printed postcards sent via USPS for $1.50 and $2.00 per postcard, depending on how many print-and-mail credits you purchase. The 8.25-x-5.5-inch postcards are, in a word, stunning. Printed on heavy glossy stock on a state-of-the-art HP Indigo Digital Press, then laminated for protection, they’re as beautiful as any postcard you’ve ever seen.
You can use one of the 200 included Bill Atkinson nature photos, as shown in Figure 19-1, or you can use any picture in your Photos library. You can add stickers and stamps, as shown in Figure 19-1, and you can even add voice notes to e-mailed cards.
Figure 19-1: Your postcard can feature one of Bill Atkinson’s gorgeous nature photos.
If you’re still uncertain, download the app (it’s free) and try it. Send an e-mail postcard or two to yourself. After you’ve seen how gorgeous these cards can be and how easy the app is to use, we think you’ll spring for some print-and-mail credits and take your iPad on your next vacation.
Words with Friends HD
This brings us to perhaps the only time in this whole book that your authors had a disagreement. Both of us love word games and puzzles, but Bob loves Words with Friends HD whereas Ed prefers the real thing, namely, SCRABBLE. Because neither of us wanted to eliminate our favorite word game from this chapter, we decided it would be best if each of us wrote about our fave. So the description of Words with Friends here was written by Bob, and the write-up of SCRABBLE that follows is all Ed.
Social media is all the rage these days, but most multiplayer iPad games are either boring or not particularly social. Words with Friends HD ($2.99), on the other hand, is the most social game I’ve found — and a ton of fun, too. It’s kind of like playing SCRABBLE with a friend, but because it’s turn-based, you can make a move and then quit the app and do other stuff. When your friend makes his next move, you can choose to be notified that it’s your turn by sound, onscreen alert, and/or a number on the Words with Friends icon on your Home screen.
Try the free version (Words with Friends HD Free), and I’m sure you’ll be hooked. Then challenge me if you like; my username is boblevitus (although I often have the maximum 20 games going, so keep trying if I don’t accept your challenge right away).
You already know we work with words for a living — and that we have a (slight) disagreement about favorite apps for playing such games. Ed appreciates a good game of SCRABBLE, whereas Bob, as we told you earlier in this chapter, prefers the virtual knock-off, Words with Friends HD.
Playing the $9.99 iPad version of SCRABBLE (from Electronic Arts and Hasbro) is the closest thing yet to replicating the experience of the famous crossword board game on an electronic device. For starters, check out the gorgeous high-definition graphics. The sounds of tiles placed on the virtual board are realistic, too.
In fact, you can build a decent case that SCRABBLE on the iPad even beats the original board game. Consider the following:
You can play up to 25 multiplayer games at a time. Challenge wordsmiths on Facebook or play over the same home network (as I have) against someone with another iPad, an iPod touch, or an iPhone. Or, play against the computer and choose your level of difficulty (easy, normal, hard).
Through Party Play mode, you can manage your private tile rack on your iPhone or iPod touch and seamlessly place tiles onto the iPad SCRABBLE game board. It works with up to four devices. You have to download the Tile Rack app from the App Store, but it’s free.
You can play iTunes music in the background for inspiration.
A SCRABBLE Teacher feature lets you see the best available word choice from your previous moves.
Personal stats are kept on the iPad. You don’t need to keep score. And you can play within Game Center.
You won’t lose any letter tiles or have to fret that your small child or pet will swallow any.
Though I’m an obvious fan of this app, I did experience one quandary while playing over a home network — I wanted to use the word quandary because the letter Q is worth ten points in SCRABBLE. The app crashed on that occasion.
ArtStudio for iPad
Do you fancy yourself an artist? We know our artistic talent is limited, but if we were talented, ArtStudio for iPad is the program we’d use to paint our masterpieces. Even if you have limited artistic talent, you can see that this app has everything you need to create awesome artwork.
We were embarrassed to show you our creations, so instead we whipped up a composite illustration (see Figure 19-2) that shows the contents of the Paint Brush Settings overlay and the Filters menu, to give you a sense of how much power is packed into this reasonably priced app.
Figure 19-2: ArtStudio for iPad has a comprehensive set of tools and menus for fine-tuning images.
Here are only a few of the outstanding ArtStudio for iPad features:
It has 25 brushes, including pencils, a smudge tool, a bucket fill, an airbrush, and more. Brushes are resizable and simulate brush pressure.
You can have as many as five layers with options, such as delete, reorder, duplicate, merge, and transparency.
It has desktop-quality filters, as shown in Figure 19-2.
Don’t believe us? AppSmile.com (www.appsmile.com) rated it 5 out of 5, saying, “This is what Photoshop Mobile wishes it had been.” SlapApp.com (www.slapapp.com) also rated it 5 out of 5 and said, “I’ve dabbled in quite a few painting and drawing apps and this one has ’em all beat by a long shot.” And by all means, check out what talented artists can do with ArtStudio for iPad at www.flickr.com/groups/artstudioimages and www.artistinvermont.com.
One last thing: The app was only 99 cents when we bought our copies — a “special launch sale” price. The price has gone up, but even at the new price, a whopping $5.99, it’s still a heck of a deal for a thoughtfully designed and full-featured drawing and painting app.
Beware of ripoffs in the iTunes App Store, such as the similarly named Art Studio HD — For Your iPad. That one, a bad knock-off from developer Party Sub Productions, has garnered mostly 1-star ratings. Don’t be fooled — the app you’re looking for is ArtStudio for iPad, from Lucky Clan. Note that Art and Studio run together to form a single word; if you search for the single word ArtStudio, you’ll find it.
Pinball Crystal Caliburn II
Good pinball games require supremely realistic physics, and Crystal Caliburn II ($3.99) nails it. The way the ball moves around the tables and interacts with bumpers and flippers is so realistic that you’ll think you’re at an arcade. It’s so realistic, in fact, that you can shake the table to influence the ball’s movement.
Another hallmark of a great pinball game is great sound effects, and this game doesn’t disappoint. The sounds the ball makes when it bounces off a bumper, is hit with a flipper, or passes through a rollover are spot-on and totally authentic.
If you like pinball, we think you’ll love Pinball Crystal Caliburn II on your iPad.
Art Authority for iPad
We’ve already admitted to being artistically challenged. But that only applies to making art. But we both appreciate good art as much as the next person, or even more. That’s why we’re so enthusiastic about Art Authority, only $4.99.
Art Authority is like an art museum you hold in your hand; it contains more than 50,000 paintings and sculptures by more than 1,000 of the world’s greatest artists. The works are organized into eight period-specific rooms, such as Early (up to 1400s), Baroque, Romanticism, Modern, and American. In each room, the artworks are subdivided by movement. The Modern room, for example, has works of surrealism, cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism, sculpture, and several more.
You find period overviews, movement overviews, timelines, and slide shows, plus a searchable index of all more than 1,000 artists and separate indices for each room.
Since we first wrote about this app, developer Open Door Networks has added an Art Near Me feature that lets you search for art in your vicinity. It was already an excellent app, and now it’s even better. If you love art, check it out.
Solar Walk — 3D Solar System
We like to gaze at the heavens, but we often have no clue what we’re looking at. This handsome, animated, 99-cent guide to the night sky from Vito Technology (it was recently refreshed to take advantage of the Retina display) will delight astronomy students and anyone else who’s fascinated by outer space, even if purists scoff that Pluto, no longer considered a planet, is included in the solar system model.
From the start, you’re taken on a virtual tour through the galaxy to the Earth. You can search planets, satellites, stars, and more and travel through time and space with a Time Machine feature. Animated movies cover topics such as Earth’s Cycles, Solar Eclipse, and The Moon Phases.
What’s more, the app can exploit 3D, provided you supply your own anaglyph-style cyan-red 3D glasses. And if you hook the iPad mini up to a 3DTV using an HDMI adapter (see Chapter 17), you can get a true sense of the depth and sheer size of the solar system in 3D, while controlling what you see on the screen through the iPad.
Of course, without 3D, you can use AirPlay to mirror what’s on the iPad screen on the bigger TV screen, provided you have an Apple TV.
Have you ever happened upon a web page with a long, interesting story you wanted to read but didn’t have time? Or have you wished you could somehow stick the story in your pocket and read it during the train ride home, on the airplane, or on a submarine?
If you’ve ever wished any of those things, you’re going to love Instapaper — a $4.99 iPad app that lets you save web pages from your computer or iPad web browser and read them later on your iPad whether or not you have an Internet connection. Yes, Safari’s Reading List does the same thing, but Instapaper is still one of Bob’s all-time favorite apps.
Here are only a few of his reasons:
Instapaper lets you save articles from web pages, organize them into folders (if you care to), and then read them at your convenience, with or without an Internet connection.
Saved articles are displayed in an easy-to-read, plain text format, as shown in Figure 19-3.
Figure 19-3: Instapaper saves articles from web pages so that you can read them later, with or without an Internet connection.
You can visit the web page the article was saved from with its ads, banners, and other graphics by tapping Open in Browser (refer to Figure 19-3).
Instapaper has advanced settings that let you customize features such as scrolling, what happens when you open a link, and how your articles are sorted, to name a few.
Give the tilt-to-scroll option a chance. We hated it at first but now think it should be in every iPad app.
Bento 4 for iPad
Full-featured database programs have traditionally been the province for professionals and employees in a variety of job types and industries. FileMaker’s Bento “personal database” programs for the Mac and iPhone, however, tend to be more inviting for mainstream consumers. The same goes for Bento 4 for the iPad, which, at $9.99, strikes a real bargain.
Indeed, Bento should appeal not only to salespeople, marketers, and field workers, but also to students and pretty much anyone who wants to keep on top of hobbies, projects, lists, events, and then some.
The newly redesigned (in version 4) simple-to-use app comes with a variety of free premade templates, covering exercise logs, vehicle maintenance, donations, diet log, time billing, and so on, with more available online. The app can handle more than 20 types of data, for such things as text, numbers, ratings, durations, currencies, and phone numbers. And Bento is tightly integrated with the iPad’s Contacts program, Mail program, Safari (you can view web pages without leaving the app), and Google Maps. You can even record voice memos.
If you have a recent version of Bento for the Mac, you can sync the two programs so that any changes you make to a database on one machine are reflected in the corresponding database on the other machine. You need a Wi-Fi connection to sync the iPad version with the Mac version. However, because of memory constraints, Bento 4 for iPad may not be able to handle the largest databases that you created for Bento on the Mac.
Among the neat stunts made possible by using this app: text fields that expand and shrink when you tap them, visual check boxes, and the capabilities to admire photos, dispatch e-mails, and watch videos.
It’s rather easy to get going with Bento. You can start out by tapping the Libraries button in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Libraries are groups of records you might want to track: Contacts, Event Planning, Products For Sale, and so on. You can tap a button that has a + hanging onto a square to add a record to your library, or tap the square with the minus sign to delete records.
Bento is particularly smart about the Contacts library. It lifts all the names in your iPad contacts and automatically prepopulates them in your Bento Contacts. (Don’t worry; they remain in Contacts, too.)
It’s a breeze to move from library to library or record to record inside the app. Down the left side of the screen are the libraries you’ve selected from the aforementioned templates. On the right, you’ll see the actual records. Tap to move from one record to another.
Customizing records is also a cinch. You can add a new record, add new fields, add records to collections, delete records, and more.
If you need a full-featured database solution, check out Bento’s big brother, FileMaker Go for iPad, a $39.99 app that runs most databases created with FileMaker Pro on a Mac or PC.
Quickoffice Pro HD
In case you haven’t noticed, we love using our iPads for fun and amusement. But, heck — we have a serious side too. And when we have to don our work hats but don’t feel like schlepping our laptops, we can turn to Quickoffice Pro.
This popular business app, which by App Store standards is a pricey $19.99, lets you create and edit Microsoft Office documents, including Word files, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations.
You can save files as Adobe PDFs, and print using AirPrint. You can even track changes, check your spelling, consult a dictionary, make comments, and do many of the basic tasks you’ve come to expect when using Office on a PC or Mac.
It’s a flexible app for that most flexible of tablets.